How Acupuncture can Help Treat Heart Burn


Heart Burn, also called Acid Reflux is a problem which effects up to 20% of adults in North America.

The medical name for this disorder is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD for short.

It is caused by acid from the stomach passing into the esophagus, usually due to relaxation of the esophageal sphincter.

GERD causes burning feelings in the throat and chest and can sometimes cause burning chest pain.

This is why it is called Heart Burn.

GERD happens to most people at least once in their lives and is chronic for some.

If left untreated the acid can permanently damage the esophagus, so it is important to seek medical care if you think you have symptoms.


GERD can be treated, but is not always possible to cure with conventional medicine:

There can be many underlying reasons for Acid Reflux and for most people it will go away on its own, or with mild lifestyle modifications such as avoiding spicy, greasy, and acidic foods.

For more serious cases pharmaceutical intervention may be required.

Modern Biomedicine usually treats GERD through the use of antacids, medications to reduce acid production, and medications that block acid production.

Some of these medicines are over the counter while others are prescribed.

They often relieve symptoms but usually do not cure the original problem causing the discomfort.


Pharmaceutical drugs often have long term side effects:

Most drugs have some kind of side effect and Acid Reflux Medicines are no different.

Taking Antacids or medicines which reduce acid production can actually cause other digestive problems such as stomach cramps, flatulence, and in some cases may actually make the original problem worse if overused.


This does not mean you should avoid pharmaceuticals:

If your doctor has prescribed medicine for you it is because they believe it will help you.

The vast majority of the time doctors make well informed treatment plans based on accurate diagnosis and knowledge of possible outcomes.

If you have been prescribed medicine to treat acid reflux, it is best to listen to your doctor unless you experience negative side effects, in which case you should return for another consultation and tell your doctor what went wrong.


Acupuncture has great results in the treatment of Acid Reflux:

Acupuncture is an excellent treatment for acid reflux and works directly on the stomach and esophagus to reduce symptoms.

Currently there are several theories of how acupuncture helps:

  • Modulation of the nervous system,
  • Adjustment of grastrointestinal motility (the movement of food thorugh the digestive system),
  • regulation of visceral hypersensitivity (pain of the soft abdominal organs),
  • anti inflammatory actions,
  • repair of gut bacteria.

The main point is that modern Biomedical research has proven acupuncture works well as a treatment for acid reflux and other digestive conditions.


The Chinese Medicine view:

In the Chinese Medicine world we recognize that there are often signs of internal illness on the outer surface of the body.

Palpation is one of our main diagnostic techniques and it is especially useful in cases of acid reflux where there is also usually distension of the abdomen around the level of the stomach.

If you are suffering from acid reflux or other issues of the stomach, I invite you to take a moment to feel around your upper center and upper left side abdomen and note if it feels different than your right side.

You may feel sensitivity in certain areas, or you may feel more firmness in the ill area.

We can also feel this during our diagnosis and it helps us to pinpoint (no pun intended) specific acupoints where needles will have the best function.

This allows us to use needles effectively to reduce swelling and promote blood flow to the area, easing the physical tension which makes your abdominal pain so unbearable.


A Synthesis of Ancient and Modern:

Since the 1970s extensive research has been conducted in Asia to understand the effects of acupuncture on the nervous system and we now know that nerve stimulation is one of the key actions which makes acupuncture effective.

The Vagus Nerve is the main nerve associated with the opening and closing of the esophageal sphincter and acupuncture has a high rate of success in stimulating this nerve to improve its function.


You may be surprised to know that the Vagus is not only stimulated on the abdomen, but can also be reached through acupuncture on the arms, legs, hands and even face.

This form of treatment is not new, it has been around for thousands of years already, but as of late Biomedical science has proven its efficacy through showing precisely which nerves are involved in healthy functioning of the esophageal sphincter and how they are influenced by acupuncture treatments.


The road to recovery:

Recovering from acid reflux can be a long road and requires your participation.

This can mean changing fundamental parts of your lifestyle such as stress levels, food choices, physical exercise and sleep patterns.

At the same time, pharmaceutical medicines as recommended by a doctor can help alleviate symptoms, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture are also significant strategies you can use to assist your recovery.

Before recovering from chronic illness it is important to live with illness.

Knowing how to predict an attack of heart burn, what foods to avoid, and what to do when it is happening are the first steps to reducing its impact.

After enough time of applying lifestyle changes you may find it is possible to be less strict about the rules you impose on yourself, but you may have to maintain certain changes for your entire life.

The outcome of illness treatment is hard to predict, but one thing is for sure, as long as you are alive you have the choice to work toward reducing the impact of illness through the choices you make and the treatments you seek.


If you are considering using acupuncture as a treatment strategy for acid reflux and live in Toronto please visit my clinic and consider booking a free phone call consultation.

I welcome you to our conveniently located clinic on Dundas St West and look forward to helping you find your best route back to perfect health.